You and Two's Army?
The original Army of Two offered dumb run and gun fun with some fairly unlikeable main characters. Can the sequel improve on things? Read on soldier!
Reintroducing jigsaw faced man mountain Rios and wisecracking greaseball Salem, mercenary muscle-men for hire, Army of Two: The 40th Day drops the duo into a seemingly inoccuous sneak and deliver mission in Shanghai. Naturally, this being a post-24 game, there are double crosses and shady dealings going on, and our men on the ground quickly find themselves in the middle of a massive terror attack on the city. Luckily they're already armed to the teeth and body armoured to the max, so it's nothing they can't handle!
So, thrust straight into battle against a mysterious mercenary army, the combat begins. Dashing from cover to cover, ducking behind low walls and vaulting obstacles, Army of Two: The 40th Day lifts its entire fighting mechanic from Gears of War. Blind fire, arcing grenade indicators and having to heal your partner when he's down complete the picture.
With three weapons slots plus grenades, our anti-heroes are more than capable of taking on any situation. With machine guns and shotguns as your mainstay, a back up pistol for close encounters, and a special weapons slot for sniper rifles and grenade launchers, the weapons load out is fairly standard. There are plenty of choices for upgrading and customising weapons however, as well as new weapons to buy, so you're bound to find something you like.
Flattering to conceive
Salem and Rios also come equipped with battle masks, which act not only as intimidating featureless visages allowing them to kill with impunity, but as state of the art GPS systems with target recognition software. Basically, this means you've always got a map handy telling you where to go, and you can "tag" targets for the other player to take out. Oh, and they look rather cool, and you can design your own to download to the game at EA's website, which is a nice touch!
They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the recent spate of Gears copyists is getting a bit tired. 40th Day fails to match Gears' visceral combat, with weapons that lack any real feel of physical impact, a damage indicator that doesn't really indicate damage very well, and endless identikit enemies who flop about like inflatable dolls when shot.
Luckily, despite the lack of oomph, it's still fun using team up tactics to take on a group of foes, especially with another player involved. The "Aggro" system is a cool feature, allowing you or your team-mate to draw the enemies attention (with copious amounts of gunfire) so that the other player can move into flanking positions or snipe unwary targets. Teaming up is also the only surefire way to take down some of the game's larger enemies. Massive armoured mercs with ridiculously large weapons, they make the cast of Predator look like weekend warriors.
You'll also find yourself in a civilian hostage situation more than once throughout the game. You can "tag" targets on your visor and instruct your partner to take them hostage or simply take them down. There's also a "morality" system at play, with various choices offered to you as you go, with seemingly obvious good or bad paths. The following cut-scenes often show you that things aren't quite as black and white as you'd think!
While it's clearly designed as a two player co-op game, 40th Day's AI does a reasonably solid job of buddying up with you if you are playing it on your own. Orders you issue are followed (hold, move up, covering fire etc), and if you get downed in combat and call for help your partner will come running. Unfortunately, they'll even attempt this under a hail of machine gun fire, leading to quite a few restarts...
Enter the Warzone
You'll see a fair few of these, as your partner gets killed before you can reach him, or get ambushed by a walking tank with a flamethrower. Fair enough, the game wants to challenge you, but does it have to make you sit through the same unskippable cut-scene EVERY time you replay a section?
Graphically, 40th Day is no great shakes, with plastic humans and oddly blocky environments. The script is great though, with some genuinely funny lines and good banter between Salem and Rios. It's certainly more likeable than the original game.
There's also a fully featured multiplayer mode, with various game types including co-op Deathmatch, which lets you and your gun buddy take on other teams, as well as Extraction, Control and Warzone. The same niggles still apply, but the co-op aspect still manages to shine through.
As a single player experience, Army of Two: The 40th Day is hard to recommend, as it's pretty rough round the edges compared with some other similar titles. As a co-op game with another real human player, however, it's a different story. The short game time makes it ideal for repeated team-ups with a friend, and the huge amount of weapons and customisable parts give you a reason to go back through again.
It's not the most polished or original shooter out there, but as long as there's two of you, you'll get good value from Army of Two.
- Looks great.
- Some of the events are quite well realised and prove a good laugh in multiplayer.
- Challenges and online Leaderboards add a little longevity.
- Weapons feel weedy.
- Generic combat.
- Irritating unskippable cut-scenes.